How to

16 May 2016

Living in Constant Sunlight: Mindset and Passtimes

Imagine, basking in the sun for an entire day, even on past midnight. It might seem tedious at first, having the sun as a bedtime story, midnight snack, and drinking buddy, but experiencing such a strange phenomenon makes it commonplace. And with that comes a selection of choice, after-hours opportunities.

At the north and south poles, where the Earth is tilted about 23 degrees, the sun doesn’t set or rise for half the year which means a total of one sunrise and one sunset per year. In certain regions within or just near the Arctic Circle, this yields two seasons: winter and summer. Summer, known as the Midnight Sun period, can persist for months, starting sometime between May and June. Places like Canada, Greenland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Alaska, Iceland, and Russia all experience varying lengths of constant sunlight. 

These northern countries have capitalized on the midnight sun. Norway’s travel page is totally dominated by information, pictures and unique adventures for visitors to take advantage of: biking across Lofoten Island in the wee hours, kayaking out to sea to experience the odd moment where the sun briefly disappears only to rise redder than ever or finishing out the morning with an early morning golf session. For those living in the land of the midnight sun, this yearly happening takes on an uninteresting quality. They will simply extend their daily exploits into the night, maybe tack up some heavy-duty, light-blocking curtains, or adopt an eye mask at night.

In fact, according to PhD student at Stanford University Kari Leibowitz, who conducted a yearlongstudy on the mindset in Norway during the Polar Night (the period of time from November to January, when the sun does not rise), the midnight sun is not looked upon quite so favourably as perpetual darkness is. Through interviews of friends and acquaintances, based at the University of Trosmø, Leibowitz found that winter meant “all things koselig, the Norwegian word for ‘cosy.’” The desolation commonly associated with winter is filled up instead by cold-weather sports, festivals, the northern lights, and, best of all, fluffy snow. Besides that, the winter months are accented by indirect light. Rather than being drenched in unrelenting night, the sun will linger for a few hours, offering a brief respite from the dark.

It’s easy to lose track of time when it’s forever light out. Maybe not if you’re used to the ordeal, but for tourists the persistent light can be a derailment. Take it from Bob Bulger at the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium in Alaska where the sun is out from mid-May to early-August. According to a phone interview conducted by Jennifer Ludden of NPR, “… this is our busy time because of so many researchers coming up to do global climate research. They want to work as much as they can, so they’re calling me up at odd hours or they’re asking me to stay and work with them. And since they lose track of time, it means that I’m on their schedule.”

Whether it’s perpetual daylight or darkness, the important thing to remember is that a positive outlook can make all the difference to your experience. Take it from Kari Leibowitz who spent over a year in Norway immersing herself in the Nordic lifestyle: “… my personal experiment in wintertime mindset has left me convinced that, with the right mindset, it’s easy to love the Polar Night.” 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).